Planning a concert is a big deal. It is a mishmash of excitement and intimidation for first-time organizers. Unfortunately, it can also be quite stressful for the inexperienced.
How do you plan a concert? The key is in the question: planning. Trying to start a concert with no budget, no location, and no performers is guaranteed to fail. Thus, providing yourself with a sizeable pre-concert planning window is essential.
Now that we’ve gotten that pertinent bit of info out of the way, let’s explore everything you need to know about putting together a successful concert. If you follow the advice below, you’ll find the process rather fun and deeply rewarding.
Who Can Plan a Concert?
Whenever there’s a big show in the area, someone had to plan it. Believe it or not, concert organizers aren’t some supernatural elite beings – they’re people.
That said, you probably won’t be getting Red Hot Chili Peppers or Post Malone on stage if this is your first live music rodeo. Nevertheless, you can certainly organize a modestly sized event starting today.
Furthermore, nothing is stopping you from planning a larger concert afterward.
Is Planning a Concert Hard?
You can’t wander into a venue and declare a concert like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy in The Office. There are as many (if not more) parts to planning a concert as there are to planning a wedding.
Does that mean planning a concert is hard? Hard might not be the best word. Involved, time-consuming, and overwhelming are more apt.
Don’t say “never mind” just yet. While starting a concert from scratch takes a great deal of effort, there are strategies to manage the process more efficiently. A structured plan eliminates a lot of the stress faced by those who don’t take the word “planning” in “concert planning” seriously.
10 Key Steps to Planning a Concert
As chaotic as concerts can be once they happen, chaos is not a good approach to planning them. Order is everything. More importantly, intelligently following a well-thought-out series of steps will increase your chances of throwing an unforgettable event.
Otherwise, event planning wouldn’t be the esteemed career path that it is. Consider throwing a concert as an exciting foray into a new profession or side hustle (depending on your long-term dedication).
While we recommend starting at the top, feel free to slightly adjust the order of each step if you need.
Step One: Ask Yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
As an impulse, throwing a concert sounds like nothing other than an amazing idea. But it doesn’t take much time researching the process to discover that there’s a lot to it. Does this mean you should give up?
No. If you’re reading about concert planning (which you are), chances are it’s a little more than a whim. Believe it or not, this shows that your dedication is higher than most. You’re grounding your decision in reality and in tangible steps.
However, there are still more questions to ask yourself. If you haven’t already done so, contemplate the following:
- “What genre would this event emphasize?”
- “What will others get from attending?”
- “What kind of atmosphere do I want?”
- “How will I feel if my concert is successful?”
- “Am I willing to spend extra hours each week for several months to make this thing happen?”
If you spat off answers in your head without breaking a sweat, you’re ready for the next step.
Step Two: Create a Budget and Financial Plan
Now it’s time for the most exciting part of concert planning – building a budget.
Please excuse the sarcasm. Unless you’re passionate about finance, this is probably a step you’d rather skip. Sadly, it’s kind of important (it’s actually not that bad).
Starting with a small venue is far more affordable than a stadium if this is your first concert. You can scale up as you cash in ticket sale profits.
How much you’ll pay is highly variable. It largely depends on the popularity and location of the spot. A more extensive clientele usually means a steeper fee.
You’ll also need to hire help and pay performers. Fortunately, you don’t need to pay for all this out of pocket. Concerts can bring in a lot of money, so there are plenty of financing entities ready to assist.
How to Put Together a Concert Budget
It’s hard to predict exact concert expenses, especially as a first-time planner. But it’s worth estimating so you don’t cut into your profits.
The first step is figuring out how many tickets you expect to sell and how you’ll price them. Higher ticket prices lead to higher expectations, so keep that in mind. In other words, don’t charge for a premium experience unless you plan to go all-out with your spending.
Use Google to view what local events are charging for tickets. Use that as a guideline. It’s also worth contacting places you have your eye on to get an idea of how many tickets you can expect to sell.
Once you have a rough idea, work within that amount to cover your expenses (while leaving space for profit).
Typical expenses to include are:
- Cost of space
- Employee wages
- Performer wages
- Permits and insurance
- Unexpected costs
If all of this sounds overwhelming, consider hiring an event planner to help. This could cost anywhere between $50 an hour to 20% of your concert budget. However, a good one can help you minimize other expenses and ultimately increase your concert’s profitability.
Step Three: Choose a Location
Now that you have a budget, you’ll know what locations you can and cannot afford. A great site is vital to a well-received concert. How do you decide what is suitable for your show?
Consider the artists and your clientele. You might not know precisely who will be playing yet, but you should have an idea of what kind of performers will be there. For example, are you planning to have cover bands? Upcoming alt-rock artists? Renowned rappers?
Identify the best performers for your target audience. Don’t bring a death metal band to a country club unless you know that’d go over well. If you’re throwing a venue gig, speak with the owner to get an idea of who goes there. Ask questions about their clientele such as:
- “How old is your average patron?”
- “What are the most popular song requests?”
- “Do you have a digital jukebox? If so, what are the usage stats?”
A bar, club, or small venue is also suitable for local bands and less-established musicians. If you go this route, your clientele will most likely consist of people who care more about the drinks served than the music.
Nevertheless, you still need talented musicians. Patrons want solid tunes so they can dance/headbang between tequila shots and bites of cheesy fries.
However, more prominent locations tend to imply an even greater emphasis on the performers. If you’re throwing an outdoor concert in less-than-perfect weather, you better ensure the music is phenomenal.
How Do I Rent a Venue?
Renting a venue is one of the most convenient ways to throw a concert. Thus, most concert planners go this route.
How do you rent a venue? Check out Peerspace to view what’s available in your area. The process is straightforward – you pay a certain amount per night. Bigger venues, such as stadiums, are more expensive.
Again, we recommend starting small if this is your first concert. A successful show doesn’t need to be massive.
Step Four: Reach Out to Performers
Before you sell tickets, you need artists. This can be one of the most stressful hurdles for first-time concert planners. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.
Start small. Most importantly, start local.
You’ll have a much better shot at getting nearby talent to play at your concert if it’s a twenty-minute drive. If you do get a big out-of-town name to agree to play at your show, expect to reimburse travel expenses on top of their performance payment (which probably won’t be cheap).
Don’t forget to choose artists that would complement your audience. This will offer better results and save you considerable time.
Now it’s time to pitch. As you do, be sure to speak on behalf of the people buying the tickets.
Try your best to illustrate a compelling value proposition. Musicians expect something in return whenever they perform. Money, recognition, and atmosphere are a few common examples. But the first one, money, is nearly universal.
Start with what you believe to be a fair rate and be willing to negotiate. Performers generally have experienced-based expectations of what their time is worth. Be careful not to disrespect them by lowballing them, as payment can be a sensitive topic – especially for artists.
You don’t need to do business if their rates are over your budget. Keep searching for talent, consider less-experienced bands, and be flexible.
But whatever you do, don’t expect anyone to pay to play.
Step Five: Make Sure Everything is Legal
Take one wrong step, and legal fees could erase your profits. This is an event organizer’s nightmare.
Generally, negligence is the most common culprit. Someone forgets to apply for a permit. Alcohol is sold without proper licensing.
There’s also the possibility that someone gets injured. Drunken behavior increases these chances. So, what can you do to protect yourself from the law?
The obvious solution is to avoid breaking the law. It isn’t always straightforward but, nevertheless, “ignorance is no excuse”. There are many permits for which concert planners may apply, but not all of them are necessary.
Ideally, you’ll consult a legal professional. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most common types of permits you may need for a concert.
Step Six: Acquire Needed Equipment
Your concert will be far more appealing to artists if you provide speakers. Furthermore, you can significantly cut back on intermission time if bands don’t need to haul massive pieces of equipment on and off stage with each act.
Reach out to your performers and ask what they plan on bringing. Some might insist on using their own speakers. Others may greatly appreciate not needing to lug as much to play at your show.
You won’t know if you don’t ask. Let musicians bring what they want. If they insist, there’s no reason not to cross certain items off your list without paying. However, you should leave some room in your budget for:
- A stage
- Concert lighting
- A PA system
If you’re planning a venue gig, the owner may have some of these items. Meanwhile, outdoor concerts will require much more than these few things.
Step Seven: Find a Good Technician (or Two)
High-quality, reliable audio is vital. Great food is a plus, but most people just want something to munch on. Delicious cocktails are excellent, but many are content as long as they can get drunk.
But sound is the one thing that can make or break the concert experience for your guests. Artists will be equally frustrated if you turn their music into feedback-ridden gobbledygook.
Having expensive speakers and mics isn’t enough. You need a professional to balance audio levels and troubleshoot issues (which are bound to occur). But don’t hire anyone without doing your research.
If you or someone you know “knows a guy/girl,” that’s great – maybe. Unfortunately, blindly hiring someone just because someone knows them isn’t the best approach. They might suck. But they might be incredible – who knows?
Google potential candidates, even friends of friends, and see what their clients have said. Does the person present themselves professionally? Do they have regular clients ready to vouch for them?
If so, go ahead and reach out to see if you can agree on payment and scheduling. Provided you’re confident in your choice, expect a qualified sound technician to help provide a phenomenal listening experience.
Step Eight: Promote the Crap out of Your Concert
You can’t sell tickets if nobody knows about your concert.
As obvious as this is, many concert planners don’t put adequate effort into marketing their events. One or two Instagram posts probably aren’t going to cut it.
While many of the steps we’ve discussed are one-and-done tasks, this isn’t one of them. Marketing should be an everyday activity, especially when it comes to social media. People simply consume way too much content to remember any one post.
It’s best to post diligently so that your concert continues to appear in people’s feeds. Don’t spam but do be persistent.
We won’t go into everything there is to know about marketing, but it’s wise to do additional research if you’re unsure of how to proceed.
In the meantime, make sure to cement your concert’s date.
Step Nine: Finish Hiring Staff
Venues may provide bouncers, servers, bartenders, etcetera. But if this doesn’t apply, you’ll need to hire these people yourself.
The roles needed will depend on your concert, of course. But devoting some of your budgets to additional staff may help things run smoothly.
It’s much easier to wrap up hiring now as opposed to sooner. People are much more likely to respond to job offers that include the specifics of time, place, and pay.
Step Ten: Sell Tickets
The last step of concert planning is selling tickets.
Selling tickets online is the easiest approach. But there are many platforms that allow you to do so. Where should you direct prospective attendees?
Ticketmaster is a popular choice. It is convenient and well-known. Plus, you’ll likely sell more tickets as people are familiar with the interface.
However, Ticketmaster is known for charging hefty “screw you” fees that cut considerably into concerts’ profits. You might be forced to use Ticketmaster or StubHub, both of which aren’t cheap. But if you have a choice and would like a more reasonable alternative, consider TickPick.
Just make sure that your followers know where to go when it’s time to buy. If possible, allow a sizeable purchase window for early and late purchases.
Once the show starts, the planning phase is over. Congratulations!
There are many steps to planning a concert. You need to negotiate and book musicians. You need to find (and pay) for the perfect spot. There’s also the matter of food and drink, which is essential to keeping your clients happy.
Planning a concert isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming. Many start with grand ambitions, only for reality to smash it all to bits. Indeed, you need to have a sustained commitment to your concert to carry it from an idea to the final stage – no pun intended.
However, if you are ready to devote hours per week to organizing, financing, and promoting your event, you may very well see amazing things happen.
If you are to remember three things from this guide, here they are:
- Be patient.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Don’t equate concert size with concert success.
Now go make some noise.